The Tasmanian Government has been forced to defend a senior minister over an AFL Grand Final spectator fracas, instead of revelling in its sponsorship of victor Hawthorn.
Deputy premier Bryan Green called a media conference to flatly deny punching a Launceston businessman, Ian Goninon, who said he came away from the MCG with a blood nose.
The dispute overshadowed the struggling Labor Government’s day in the sun with the Hawthorn team, which plays matches in Tasmania under a $3 million annual sponsorship deal, and toured the state on Monday to celebrate.
Premier Lara Giddings was forced to issued a statement of support for Mr Green.
“It is regrettable that a fantastic game of football has been marred by this matter,” Ms Giddings said.
Mr Goninon, president of South Launceston Football Club, said he went to the match as a corporate guest, and Mr Green was sitting in the row in front.
He said he spoke to Mr Green.
“Look I thought the deputy premier may have been somewhere else, spruiking Tasmania and doing that type of thing,” he told ABC radio.
“But look I don’t know. I’ve got witnesses to the incident and that will come out.”
Mr Goninon said the incident happened on the final siren. “I’ve just had a bloody nose the last two days,” he said.
He denied ever saying anything derogratory to Mr Green, who rejected Mr Goninon’s version of events.
Mr Green said he was subjected to constant heckling by Mr Goninon both before and during the game, and towards the end of the day he turned and “forcefully remonstrated” with the businessman.
“I certainly absolutely did not punch Mr Goninon,” Mr Green said. “I didn’t push him. I argued with him. I did not in any way from my perspective physically assault him.”
The two men each said they were taking legal advice.
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